The South African Air Force (SAAF) has grounded the Hawk trainer fleet following the crash of a jet whilst landing last Thursday.
The BAE Systems Hawk Mk 120 jet trainer, operated by 85 Combat Flying School, was performing a ‘touch and go’ at AFB Makhado when it experienced a control problem.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the control stick ‘locked’ shortly before touch-down, resulting in the aircraft slamming the front wheel onto the runway, bouncing and then hitting the runway again with the front wheel. This resulted in the front wheel breaking off and the Hawk sliding down the runway before coming to a halt.
Neither of the two crew aboard, who deploying the drag chute after the nose-wheel broke off in order to slow the aircraft, were injured.
As the damaged aircraft blocked the runway, other aircraft that were still in the air were forced to land on the taxiway. This was safely accomplished as when the airbase was built in the 1980s, the taxiway was designed to operate as a secondary runway in the event of the main runway being blocked or damaged.
AFB Makhado is situated near the town of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo Province. 85 Combat Flying School is equipped with the remaining 23 Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) Hawk jets of the 24 delivered as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Package (SDP).
The other flying squadron operating from the base is 2 Squadron, equipped with the SAAB Gripen fighter.
Although no comment has yet been received from the Air Force or South African National Defence Force (SANDF), it is believed the official Board of Investigation commenced their enquiries on Monday.